Back in the noughties I contributed several issues to a Fenman publication called Train the Trainer that was issued as a binder of material on a range of topics. Below is an extract from one I wrote about TA in the classroom. In this blog I include what I wrote about ego states and contracting – in Part 2 I will present what I wrote about stroking and also add some answers to questions that were being asked about TA at the time – and still are!
Transactional Analysis (TA) is an approach to understanding what makes people tick, a collection of interlocking theories, and a philosophy that incorporates a belief that people want to grow and develop. The original TA (now called TA proper) consisted of the analysis of transactions, or interactions between people, using the notion of ego states. However, many more concepts were developed so that the term ‘transactional analysis’ is now used to refer to the whole collection. In addition to teaching this range of concepts to participants, we can use most of them to analyse our own behaviours and interactions in the classroom
Eric Berne, who developed the TA version of ego states, declared that we have Parent, Adult and Child ego states systems of thinking, feeling and behaving. If we consider only the behaviours (because we can see these but cannot truly know what someone is thinking and feeling) we can work with a personal styles model (Hay 1992, 1995).
There are five personal styles with which we interact with others – each has positive and negative aspects.
firm, sets clear boundaries
caring, helps others develop
smothering, invites dependency
logical, problem solving, reasoning
may be cold, unfeeling, analyses jokes
courteous, fits in with others
over-compliant, sulky, rebellious
friendly, curious, spontaneous
selfish, over-emotional, immature
There is a risk that trainers automatically adopt a Controlling or Nurturing Parent style, while participants unconsciously expect to operate from Adapted or Natural Child. If this happens, the training/learning process will not be very effective.
The best trainers are skilled at using all five personal styles. In this way, they encourage the learner to do the same. This also helps the learner to take responsibility for their own development, through:
The Three-Cornered Contract
Contracting is a key element of transactional analysis, and refers to the process of creating a clear agreement around expected outcomes and responsibilities. Contracts may or may not be written down. A verbal contract is still a contract. The main point is that we discuss and agree why we are interacting when we plan to use TA to help someone grow.
When used effectively within the training process, a good contract will mean that ‘problem participants’ cease to exist! This is because contracting ensures that the requirements of the organisation are both clear and realistic, that the trainer has the relevant competencies, and that the participants understand the link between the training and the work performance.
Trainers in organisations are usually involved in contracts between at least three parties – the trainer, the organisation (or a representative of it) and the participants.
Levels of Contracting
Contracts operate at different levels - all levels need to be clear to avoid unwitting sabotage.
The first stage of the contracting will generally be between the trainer and the organisation. Typically, they will agree on the training objectives and the course design. At this stage as there may well be no involvement by the participants. Subsequently, the trainer and the participants arrive in the classroom. Unless the joining instructions have been atypically informative, the participants and the trainer may have somewhat different ideas on what is going to take place. At worst, the participants may by there for the wrong reasons.
Contracting in the Classroom
We can avoid problems by using the three cornered contract in the classroom. It takes only a few minutes at the start of a course to draw the triangle on the flipchart and talk the participants through it, inviting them to add their part. We can explain that our contract with the organisation is similar to their contract with the organisation. We are being paid to do our job and so are they. As part of this, they have implicitly agreed to attend training courses if the organisation requires it. In return, the organisation pays them, and usually continues to pay them during their training as they are learning how to do their job even better.
Although we will of course include the procedural and professional levels of the contract in this process, the more significant reason for contracting like this is to take care of the psychological level of the contract. We bring the secret agendas and covert concerns into the open, where they can be discussed and dealt with. Participants hear from us the details of what the organisation has asked for, and what we are prepared to do. They can be honest about their concerns, which may well include some fantasies about how we are going to ‘fix’ them on behalf of then organisation. Explaining the contract reassures them that there is a professional purpose to the training and it is not simply a management plot!
We can then go on to establish a contract between us, which is likely to include agreement on aspects such as:
trainers teach – participants learn
trainers structure – participants get involved
trainers facilitate – participants share their reactions
trainers provide theory – participants bring real-world issues to work on
Hay, Julie (1992) Transactional Analysis for Trainers Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill, (republished 1996) Watford: Sherwood Publishing 2nd edition published 2009
Hay, Julie (1995) Donkey Bridges for Developmental TA Watford: Sherwood Publishing 2nd edition published 2009
Hay, Julie (2003) Transactional Analysis in the Classroom Train the Trainer, Issue 1
© 2018 Julie Hay
Julie is a fan of open access publishing so feel free to reproduce any of these blogs as long as you still attribute it to her.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.